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Airman’s innovative idea grants new capability to refueling truck

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Airman 1st Class Devin Hubbard (left) and Senior Airman Chad Tidwell, both 36th Logistic Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operators, prepare to fuel a KC-135 Stratotanker during Exercise Cope North 20 at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 26, 2020. The 36th LRS won the Pacific Air Forces Best Fuel flight for 2019, and is one of three bases considered to win the American Petroleum Institute Award, an award given to the best fuels team in the U.S. Air Force. Cope North 20 is an annual U.S. Pacific Air Forces tri-lateral field training exercise with participants from the U. S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self Defense Force) and the Royal Australian Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

A R-11 Refueler 6,000-gallon tanker hose adapter, primarily developed from cannibalized parts, could potentially save the Air Force thousands of man-hours each year by greatly reducing drive times during aircraft defuel operations.

The Portable-Return to Bulk (P-RTB) developed by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Sandlin has cut aircraft defuel operations by up to 70 percent.

It started during a conversation with the Distribution Section Chief, Master Sgt. Hugh Mulhern, while riding back to the office from an aircraft defuel operation. The question proposed to SSgt Sandlin was, “How on earth could we make this faster?”  Staff Sgt. Sandlin pondered and realized the answer was to connect an R-11 to a hydrant pit as opposed to driving to a pumphouse.

This capability, however, did not exist with the R-11 truck. The R-11 can only RTB into a hydrant system using an offloading header. Andersen AFB has only a limited amount of pumphouses with offloading headers spread out off the flightline compared to 67 hydrant outlets directly on the flightline. Staff Sgt. Sandlin had a vision that he could enable the R-11 truck to connect directly into hydrant outlet on the flightline. Rather than requisitioning new parts for an estimated $4 thousand, he created a prototype using old junkyard parts from two other organizations on base, and he locally sourced the remaining parts which only cost around $340.

On Jan. 10, 2020, The Andersen Fuels Service Center received a call to defuel a B-52 Startofortress on the center aircraft parking ramp. The aircraft wasn’t parked on a hydrant pit, so the Fuels Management Flight had to utilize an R-11 truck to return the fuel from the aircraft back to a hydrant pit. The first 6,000-gallon defuel from the B-52 was sent to the pumphouse offloading header returning to the same B-52 87 minutes later. After the P-RTB was connected, the R-11 was able to connect to a nearby hydrant pit which reduced the defueling time of the second 6,000-gallon defuel to 25 minutes. The overall time saved on the defueling operation was 186 minutes on the last three truckloads of fuel.

 So far this calendar year, the Fuels Management Flight has utilized the P-RTB prototype a total of 25 times saving an incredible 53 man-hours. Additionally, they have recently been awarded Squadron Innovation Funds to purchase the parts for four more P-RTB adapters. With innovative methods like these, it’s no wonder this Fuels Management Flight received the MAJCOM’s American Petroleum Institute award for 2019 and are known as “PACAF’s Best Fuels Flight”.

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